ESPN can have its Yankees-Red Sox hype; the best rivalry in baseball right now is Phillies-Mets. The pundits say Philadelphia is a football town but apart from the shenanigans of a long-since departed wide receiver who shall go nameless, which team provides more story lines with more drama?
Last night's comeback win against the Mets was sweet as it was improbable. Down 7-0 by the fourth inning and facing a rejuvenated Pedro Martinez, the Phillies rallied to tie the game with two outs in the ninth inning on a pinch double by Eric Bruntlett (of all people) and won the game in the thirteenth on Shane Victorino's triple and Chris Coste's single. In between these heroics, Ryan Howard hit his league leading 35th home run, Jimmy Rollins stroked five hits including a home run and stole three bases, and the Phils used not one but two starting pitchers -- Cole Hamels and Brett Myers -- as pinch hitters. Hamels' appearance wasn't his first as a pinch hitter; Myers' should be his last!
This was the kind of victory on which seasons frequently turn. We need look no further than last year's Phillies' surge and Mets' collapse for precedent. Jamie Moyer started for the Phils and before everyone was seated his team was down 2-0 and counting. Moyer had been terrific lately, but this was not his night. Fortunately, the bullpen was sensational, holding the Mets in check the rest of the way and allowing the offense to mount its comeback. Before popping out Rollins had reached base safely eight straight times, collecting eight hits over two nights. All is not only forgiven as far as the fans are concerned; it's forgotten.
Chase Utley, who'd stared down .279 a week ago and didn't like what he saw, has raised his average to .289 during this home stand. And Shane Victorino further made his case for team MVP, sparking the winning rally with his three base hit. Victorino always seems to be in the middle of rallies. Still, as is almost always the case, Jimmy is the key to this team's success. When he's on his game there's a feeling in the dugout and in the stands anything is possible.
A win tonight would sustain the momentum, important not only in putting some distance between themselves and the Mets (the Marlins have suddenly disappeared) but in building up for the important four-game series against the Cubs this holiday weekend.